Wu Tang Clan – “Iron Flag”
(Sony / Columbia 2001)
Who among us hasn’t, at one point or another, wanted to leave it all behind and join The Wu-Tang Clan OF course, it’s an impossible dream. You and I will never know what its like to roll with Ghostface Killah and have Ol’ Dirty Bastard pass the blunt our way.
But we can claim our Wu-Tang Clan names at http://recordstore.com/wuname/wuname.pl.
Does A-Bian hold secret dreams of trading the stressful uncertainties of the Taiwan presidency for an ice-cold forty and a chance to swap rhymes with Method Man and U-God? If he somehow managed to make this dream come true, his Wu Tang name, according to the site, would be “Gratuitous F-REEK.” Ma Ing Jo would become the very fitting “Auxiliary Priest.”
Unlike many in the hip hop world who have mellowed with age, the Wu Tang Clan have stayed hard. With the exception of a few brief samples, there is no R&B crossover in “Iron Flag,” no displaying of various members of the Wu Tang Clan’s “sensitive sides.” Instead, “Iron Flag” is pure hardcore. While many a rap album has been ruined through excessive production, Wu Tang’s RZA didn’t dilute the sound with excessive production, instead keeping the sound simple – hard ass beats, with just a few samples thrown in for good measure.
Unlike the Clan’s previous two albums (which were produced in Los Angeles,) “Iron Flag” has a definite east coast hardcore feeling, which is appropriate on a few levels. First off, The Wu Tang Clan are definite east-coasters, hailing, in fact, from my home town of Staten Island. Second, the album was released after the World Trade Center attack, which the clan address directly on “Iron Flag” more than a few times (“United we stand / divided we fall / Mr. Bush, sit down / I’m in charge of the war!”) The Clan pay further homage to their East Coast roots by inviting Public Enemy’s Flava Flav in for a rant.
While my review copy of “Iron Flag” was the original issue, there is, apparently, a “clean” version of the album available, which I can only imagine is 15% blank space. While I can’t recommend this album for anyone but the hardest hardcore Hip Hop fan, It might provide good psychic defense against the endless loop of the “Gongxi! Gongxi!” song that will no doubt be blaring from speakers from Keelung to Kenting this week.
Iggy Pop – “Beat ‘em up”
(EMD/Virgin – 2001)
I have no problem believing in the existence of god, or what some would call “a higher power,” but many factors make me question this “god’s” fickle sense of humor. Take the case of Buddy Holly, for example. A clean living young man with talent, a guitar, and nothing but good intentions. In his short time on this earth, he epitomized what Americans would call “an all-American boy.” But his clean living availed him naught, when along with Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper, Buddy Holly was killed in a plane crash before he’d even turned thirty.
Then there’s Iggy Pop, who, with decades of excess and insanity, seems to be saying “go ahead, kill me, I dare you” to whatever deity might be listening. But Iggy is still with us, still cranking out albums like “Beat ‘Em Up.” Truly, his ways are unfathomable. There were definite bits of stream of conscious brilliance spread our over “Beat ‘em up” …“Irony in place of balls / Balls in place of brains / Brains in place of soul,” and “”In the shower I crap in America’s lap.” Tracks like “Football” had sound vaguely like “The Passenger,” a song which wasn’t on the Repo Man soundtrack, but should have been, and “Go For The Throat” is a good homicidal driving song.
Still, as wine turns to vinegar with time, so does anger become crankiness, and other parts of the album struck me as cantankerous and uninspired, like a wino screaming on the subway. But still, “Beat ‘Em Up” is a pretty good album, not nearly as inspired as “Lust For Life,” but nowhere near the level of suck as the eighties sellout “Blah Blah Blah.”
Nonetheless, all Iggy fans should buy “Beat ‘em Up” if not just to listen to it a few times, out of a sheer sense of slavish devotion. This is Iggy Pop we’re talking about, for God’s sake, A rock and roll deity. Every day he continues to draw breath is a day that he deserves your money. To paraphrase Woody Allen (vaguely) …Some people achieve Immortality by creating great works, and doing things that will be remembered for generations. I’d prefer to obtain immortality by not dying…Iggy has thus far done both. Now pony up to the counter and pay the man.